Along with the obesity epidemic among children has come an alarming rise in Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and "non-alcoholic" fatty liver disease—conditions once considered illnesses of the middle-aged and elderly. In ways medical researchers are just beginning to understand, being overweight and inactive at a young age appears to be far more destructive than adding extra pounds later in life.
Here are four numbers you can use to improve your kids' health. Best of all, it's equally effective for parents.
5: Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
"This is so much easier to do than most people think," explains Susan Watkins, RD, CDE, registered dietitian, St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. "Healthy smoothies and soups are both great ways to get several servings of fruits and vegetables into your children in one sitting.”
2: Reduce screen time to two hours or less a day.
Experts in every area of children’s’ health point to the importance of this unpopular rule, which should include all screens, from computer games to hand-held electronic games. And if your child has a TV in their bedroom, experts say, take it out.
1: Get an hour of exercise every day.
"Get your child to ride a bike, play soccer, or set up a backyard obstacle course and race," Susan advises. "Develop family traditions that include exercise: like going to the park every Saturday and playing soccer."
0: Eliminate sodas or sugar sweetened drinks.
Sodas or drinks with high fructose corn syrup shouldn't be found in your grocery cart: "They are terrible for you no matter what your age," Susan explains. “Instead, have kids drink more water and switch to low-fat milk.”
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.